Date Published: 9 March 2009

AMA's Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness Journal Releases Two New Studies

Health News from the United States of America (USA).

The American Medical Association's (AMA) Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal released two new studies. The studies found increased violence among Mississippi women after Hurricane Katrina and increased legal protection for emergency medical volunteers.

Mississippi Women Faced Increased Violence After Hurricane Katrina

New AMA Disaster Journal study suggests disaster planning efforts to reduce gender-based violence.

A new study published today in the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal finds that Mississippi women who were displaced to other parts of the state by Hurricane Katrina faced increased sexual and physical violence following the disaster.

Women who experience sexual violence are more likely to have symptoms of depression and can have suicidal thoughts,” said study lead author Lynn Lawry, M.D., M.S.P.H., M,Sc., senior health stability/humanitarian assistance specialist in the Office of the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense. “Disaster planning and health services should include efforts to protect women and address subsequent health issues that arise among women exposed to domestic violence during and after a disaster situation.”

Gender-based violence (GBV) can encompass physical, sexual, and psychosocial violence that is committed due to the victim’s sex. The study found higher rates of GBV among women who lived in trailer parks and who were displaced in Mississippi, than immediately following the disaster. After two years, GBV rates decreased, but were still higher than before the hurricane. Efforts to reduce GVB violence should be incorporated into disaster planning.

Legal Protection needed For Emergency Medical Volunteers

AMA Disaster Journal study suggests state legislation and an arbitration board.

A new study published today in the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness journal finds public health emergency relief efforts in the United States may be hindered by unclear liability protection laws for medical emergency responders. Policy recommendations that provide comprehensive immunity for volunteer health care workers are needed, as is a medical review panel to serve as an arbitration board.

Physicians, nurses, and many other licensed health professionals have growing concerns about what might lead to censure, penalties from licensing boards, or lawsuits stemming from medical emergency response,” said study lead author Kristine M. Gebbie, Dr.P.H., R.N., Columbia University School of Nursing. “To help health care professionals respond willingly and appropriately in a disaster situation, it is important they understand the legal, ethical and social issues involved. In emergencies, it is only the circumstances that change; not the individual’s professional competency or the basic professional standard.”

This study is the outgrowth of a panel convened by the American Nurses Association that considered the ethical, professional, and practical aspects of meeting standards of care in emergency situations.

The study makes three key recommendations:

1. Health care professionals who may respond to an emergency should participate in continuing medical education on emergency preparedness and participate in emergency drills and exercises.
2. State legislation is needed for the adoption of comprehensive immunity for volunteer health care workers.
3. Support legislation that requires all questionable cases to be referred to an arbitration board such as a medical review panel (comprised of physicians, nurses and other health professionals) prior to criminal processing.


Source: American Medical Association (AMA).

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